New York Times selling regional papers for $143M

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Times Co. said Tuesday that it will sell its group of 16 small, regional newspapers to Halifax Media Holdings LLC for $143 million.

The newspapers being sold include The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, Calif.; the News Chief in Winter Haven, Fla.; and The Tuscaloosa News in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Halifax Media is based in Daytona Beach, Fla., and owns the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

“The sale of our Regional Media Group will enable The New York Times Company to continue our transformation to a digitally focused, multiplatform media company,” said New York Times Co. Chairman Arthur Sulzberger. Last year, the group accounted for 11 percent of The Times Co.’s $2.4 billion in annual revenue, according to the company’s annual report.

The Times Co., like many newspaper publishers, has struggled in recent years as advertisers shift from newspapers to cheaper alternatives on the Internet. It is trying to supplement its digital advertising push by charging readers for unrestricted access to its content on the Web, Apple Inc.’s iPad and mobile phones.

The company had said on Dec. 19 that it was in advanced talks to sell the regional newspapers to Halifax Media. That announcement came four days after the company said CEO Janet Robinson will step down at the end of the year.

The sale is expected to close in a few weeks, and The Times Co. will record an after-tax gain on the sale in the first quarter of 2012. It estimates that the net after-tax proceeds from the sale will be about $150 million, which it plans to use for general corporate purposes.

Other newspapers included in the deal are: Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Sarasota, Fla.; The Ledger in Lakeland, Fla.; Star-News in Wilmington, N.C.; Herald-Journal in Spartanburg, S.C.; Star-Banner in Ocala, Fla.; The Gainesville Sun in Gainesville, Fla.; The Gadsden Times in Gadsden, Ala.; The Courier in Houma, La.; Times-News in Hendersonville, N.C.; Daily Comet in Thibodaux, La.; The Dispatch in Lexington, N.C.; Petaluma Argus-Courier in Petaluma, Calif.; and North Bay Business Journal in Santa Rosa, Calif.

“The strong local news coverage these papers provide represents not only an important community service, but, in our eyes, a good investment,” Michael Redding, Halifax Media’s CEO, said in Tuesday’s announcement.

Privately held Halifax Media lists among its investors Stephens Capital Partners LLC and Redding Investments.

The New York Times Co. publishes its namesake newspaper as well as The Boston Globe and other newspapers. It also owns About.com.

Its shares added a penny to $7.77 in extended trading following the announcement. They had ended the regular trading session down 3 cents at $7.76.

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